North metro voters will fill three of six seats in the Anoka-Hennepin district and four of seven in St. Francis.
Replacing Dennis Carlson, who retires at the end of the school year, heads the to-do list for a board that will have at least one new member in January. Three seats are on the Nov. 5 ballot, and one incumbent, Michael Sullivan, is not seeking re-election after 25 years. William Fields, Janelle Kirkeide and Paul Meunier are competing for that District 4 seat.
Bill Harvey — who was appointed to the District 3 seat in January after John Hoffman was elected to the Minnesota Senate — is being challenged by Grace Baltich.
In District 6, Jeff Simon, appointed in 2012 after Kathy Tingelstad resigned, is running unopposed.
Anoka-Hennepin District 3
Grace Baltich — a mother, licensed social worker and Champlin Park High School graduate — says the district “should have learned that it needs to be less reactionary or fear-based and become more proactive and collaborative.” She believes that, if anything, students “have been underreporting incidences of bullying” and that staff needs to be better trained “on cultural competency and how to handle bullying and create safer spaces.”
Baltich emphasizes the need for providing mental-health services in schools to address reasons that bullies act out. She said the school board must support staff to change the culture and safety of schools.
“I want to ensure that all children receive just as good, if not a better education than what I received growing up here,” Baltich said.
Bill Harvey, of Champlin, has three children who have attended or are attending Anoka-Hennepin schools. Harvey says he has volunteered, coached and participated in the district’s schools for 13 years.
“We currently lead the nation in the policies and procedures … to reduce bullying and harassment in our schools for all students,” Harvey said. “It is my hope that the antibullying task force can suggest improvements in our current practice.”
He said Carlson will leave the district on solid ground. He hopes the next superintendent can create “a culture of continuous improvement, an organization that is data driven,” while using taxpayer funds efficiently. He wants the district to respect “the right of parents to be their child’s first educator.”
Anoka-Hennepin District 4
William Fields, of Andover, is an Air Force Academy graduate who was a pilot, instructor and training manager during his 10-year military career. The father of four says he gained an appreciation for the “academic environment” through his roles with the military.
“While we had some very unfortunate incidents occur in the district, I don’t think the federal government needed to be involved in any solution,” Fields said, referring to the settlement of the lawsuit. But, concerning the consent decree that resolved it, Fields said he looks “forward to input from the A-H task force going forward.”
As for Carlson’s successor, Fields said, “I think the next superintendent needs to reflect the values of the district … and maintain a focus on academics with respect for the taxpayers. It is important for the superintendent to find ways to streamline areas that will produce quicker results with less red tape.”